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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Autism Books

In addition to The Politics of Autism, there are other new books dealing with autism.

Steve Silberman's Neurotribes:
Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.
And most recently, In a Different Key, by John Donvan and Caren Zucker:
Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism—by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different.
At The Smithsonian, Donvan and Zucker write of Samuel Gridley Howe:
As far as we can determine, we are the first to suggest the diagnosis for Howe’s numerous cases, who appear to constitute the earliest known collection of systematically observed people with probable autism in the United States. We came across them during the fourth year of research for our new book, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, by which time our “radar” for autistic tendencies was fairly well-advanced. Granted, retrospective diagnosis of any sort of psychological state or developmental disability can never be anything but speculation. But Howe’s “Report Made to the Legislature of Massachusetts upon Idiocy,” which he presented in February of 1848, includes signals of classic autistic behavior so breathtakingly recognizable to anyone familiar with the condition’s manifestations that they cannot be ignored. Plus, his quantitative approach vouches for his credibility as an observer, despite the fact that he believed in phrenology, which purported to study the mind by mapping the cranium, long since relegated to the list of pseudosciences. Howe’s final report contained 45 pages of tabulated data, drawn from a sample of 574 people who were thoroughly examined by him or his colleagues in nearly 63 towns. The tables cover a wide range of measurements as well as intellectual and verbal capacities. Howe, extrapolating, estimated that Massachusetts had 1,200 “idiots.”